By Hugh Hart
August 24, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

There’s something fishy about severed fingers in a sardine can. At least that’s what viewers of Fox’s Murder in Small Town X have been saying on the series’ website, which drew 3 million page views in the 30 hours after the show’s July 24 debut (outstripping The Simpsons to become Fox.com’s hottest attraction). The fingers (fake) were just one of the gruesome clues left by a maniacal killer (fake) to taunt 10 ordinary people (real) trying to figure out who ”murdered” the Flint family in the quaint village of Sunrise (actually Eastport, Maine). But the evidence flies by so quickly during each episode that viewers flock to the site to sort it all out. ”Our goal,” says site developer Jack Johnson, ”was to make that information easily accessible.” While Small Town’s Big Brother-meets-Blair Witch-meets Murder, She Wrote universe offers amateur sleuths a fictional mystery to unravel, other crime- show sites can get downright grisly. EW investigates:

MURDER IN SMALL TOWN X (www.fox.com/smalltownx) If you want to get creeped out, here’s a tip: Click on the cigarette-smoking man (thank you, X-Files) to enter the killer’s own site, which includes taunting messages and snuff video shot from the culprit’s perspective. Who is this psycho? Bone up on previous episodes in the Clues and Weekly Briefing areas, then post your theories on the Community message boards, where X’s investigators inspire impassioned postings: Kristen is despised; Alan is considered a hottie. One viewer mentions some lurid plot twists, then muses, ”…I’m either disgusted or intrigued. Anyway, I can’t wait for next Tuesday.” B

AUTOPSY (www.hbo.com/autopsy) Shark regurgitates arm, arm bears tattoo identifying dead man to whom it was once attached, dead man turns out to be associate of ”shady characters.” Welcome to Dr. Michael Baden’s day job. Baden, who has conducted some 20,000 autopsies — including those portrayed on this HBO series — contributes much of the bizarre material found at the site’s Crime News area. Not for the squeamish: Interactive Casebook, which documents five actual crime scenes. Each includes zoom-in photos, a victim dossier, and audio clips from detectives who worked the case. A

CSI (www.cbs.com/csi) Access the ”computer” belonging to fictional Crime Scene Investigation boss Gil Grissom (William Petersen), then peruse the CSI Handbook for a dead-serious cram course in forensic science — which will come in handy when the CBS show’s new season starts Sept. 20. You’ll learn about lueco crystal violet (it makes blood shine in the dark), and really esoteric stuff about bite marks, fingernails, and string lines. Elizabeth Devine, 15 years with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department before becoming CSI’s technical adviser, lays out an illustrated glossary of more than 100 technical terms. B+

Feeling queasy yet? There’s more to come, even after X reveals whodunit during its Sept. 4 finale. CourtTV.com, for instance, promises clips of ransom calls to accompany its fact-based I, Detective series debuting Aug. 30. Maybe it’s time to call in Dick Van Dyke. He could play a medical examiner who can’t stand the sight of blood — call it Diagnosis Maalox.

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